Robert Mendelsohn (1926 – 1988) is typically remembered as the first anti-vaccine pediatrician.
A self-described “medical heretic,” Dr. Mendelsohn was against ultrasounds in pregnancy, “water fluoridation, immunization, coronary bypass surgery, licensing of nutritionists, and screening examinations to detect breast cancer.”
He believed that vaccines didn’t work, even though he lived through the polio epidemics, development of the polio vaccines, and elimination of polio in the United States:
The greatest threat of childhood diseases lies in the dangerous and ineffectual efforts made to prevent them through mass immunization. There is no convincing scientific evidence that mass inoculations can be credited with eliminating any childhood disease.
Much like when Jenny McCarthy went on Oprah to talk about how vaccines made her child autistic, Dr. Mendelsohn was a frequent guest on TV talk shows, scaring parents in the 1970s and 80s.
He famously appeared on Phil Donahue, prompting a follow-up program with spokespeople from the American Academy of Pediatrics to correct Mendelsohn’s misinformation about vaccines.
Most importantly though, he appeared as an “expert” in Vaccine Roulette, falsely calling the pertussis vaccine “probably the poorest and most dangerous vaccine that we now have.”
He appeared on over 500 TV and radio shows, published five books, including How To Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor, and even had his own syndicated newspaper column.
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